Sylvia Vatuk is Professor Emerita of Anthropology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She is the author of Kinship and Urbanization: White-Collar Migrants in north India, and of numerous articles in scholarly journals. She has also contributed to a large number of edited volumes on issues of gender and family, based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork among both Hindus and Muslims in north and south India. Her new title, published by Women Unlimited this year, is Marriage and its Discontents: Women, Islam, and the Law in India.
Debates around Muslim Personal Law, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act and the Muslim Women (protection of Rights on Divorce) Act have tended to focus on the issue of unilateral divorce, a right granted to husbands, as well as on polygamy and other discriminatory provisions in MPL.
This landmark study, while giving no quarter to undesirable practices like triple talaq, presents the author's detailed findings on when, and how, Muslim women resort to legal remedies should their marriages break down. Her thoughtful- and thought-provoking-analysis is based on ten years of research in Chennai and Hyderabad, during which she consulted family court records and court petitions; conducted extensive interviews with government-appointed qazis in both cities; met and had detailed discussions with the women themselves, as well as with lawyers, judges, counsellors, court staff and advocates. She also examined, for the first time, the phenomenon of wife-initiated divorces or Khula, and made the startling discovery that their number far exceeded court awarded divorces in any given year.
Vatuk’s account, based on exhaustive empirical data from south India, is the first comprehensive study on how Muslim women negotiate MPL, the family courts and extra-judicial options in order to exit marriages that no longer work.
In hardcover, 273 pages, Rs 650, ISBN: 9789385606090